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The year in gaming: Top video games of 2021

By Kara Santos Published Dec 31, 2021 1:45 pm

Interest in video games is booming, unfortunately the industry continues to face numerous delays in software and hardware releases as an effect of the continued COVID-19 pandemic this year.

The PlayStation 5 console, which was initially released in the Philippines a full year ago, is still facing availability issues to this day. 

The release dates of many highly-anticipated games like Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring have been pushed back, giving smaller indie and family-friendly games a chance to shine in the spotlight this year.

Let’s take a look back at some of the top games released in 2021 and a few older games that continue to make an impact and shape the Philippine gaming scene. 

It Takes Two

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S 

Hazelight Studios' It Takes Two, which was released in March 2021, could double as relationship therapy, as it offers a perfect co-op game for those stuck in lockdown during the pandemic.

The action-adventure platform game centers on a couple on the brink of divorce who suddenly find themselves trapped inside the bodies of their daughter’s toys. The pair must work together to traverse their home and return to their bodies. The game does not have a single-player option and is playable only in either online or local split screen co-op between two players.

With stunning graphics reminiscent of Pixar’s Toy Story and gameplay that puts you right into a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids film, It Takes Two received generally favorable reviews from critics. The game won multiple year-end accolades, including Best Family Game, Best Multiplayer, and all around Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2021. 

Resident Evil Village

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S 

The Umbrella Corporation seemed to be working overtime this year, with the release of multiple Resident Evil projects, including a Netflix anime, movie, and the survival horror game from Capcom, Resident Evil Village released in May 2021.

Set immediately after the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 7, Village takes place in eastern Europe. Players control the troubled Ethan Winters, who must save his family in a village filled with vampiric aristocrats and their mutant creature followers.

While Village maintains the Resident Evil series' survival horror elements, the game adopts a more action-oriented gameplay style compared to its predecessor.

But rather than Ethan, it was the game’s antagonist, Lady Dimitrescu, presented as a gigantic noblewoman with vampire-like traits and resides with her three daughters in Castle Dimitrescu, who stole the entire show. 

Following initial previews of Village, Lady Dimitrescu unexpectedly rose in popularity and became the subject of a significant amount of fan art, cosplay, memes, and even erotica. 

Resident Evil Village received generally favorable reviews, and was praised for its gameplay, setting, and variety, although it received criticism for its puzzles, boss fights and  performance issues on the Microsoft Windows version.

Psychonauts 2

Platforms: PC, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S 

It's been 16 years since we’ve set foot in the bizarre world of Raz and the Psychonauts, which was first released in 2005. 

In Psychonauts 2 released in August 2021, players once again control Raz, a young acrobat training to become a Psychonaut, a member of an international task force that uses their psychic abilities for good as he delves into the minds of others. The third-person platform game lets players unleash various "Psi-Powers," like telekenisis, pyrokinesis, and levitation in combination with more common platform game elements, to explore the mental worlds of several non-player characters.

Psychonauts 2 is said to be just as wacky and heartfelt as the original, with crisper graphics and smoother gameplay, proving just how timeless the insane world was from the beginning. 

The game was nominated for a number of awards this year for its storytelling, game design and art direction. It won Xbox Game of the Year.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S 

Based on Marvel Comics’ Guardians of the Galaxy comic book series, the action-adventure video game was released on Oct. 26, 2021.

The player assumes control of Peter Qull/Star-Lord from a third-person perspective. The player can utilize Star-Lord's elemental guns to defeat enemies, and fly through the air using his jet boots. Other members of the team, including Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot and Drax the Destroyer are not directly playable as they are controlled by AI, but players can issue commands to them during combat. 

The game received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for its narrative, soundtrack and visuals, but criticism for its combat that was considered repetitive. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy won Best Narrative at The Game Awards 2021.

Metroid Dread

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Samus Aran, the badass intergalatic bounty hunter of Metroid fame, made her return 19 years after the last 2D game, marking a delightful return of a classic and beloved franchise. 

Metroid: Dread, the 2D side-scroller for the Nintendo Switch sees our hero stalked by artifically intelligent killer robots on the mysterious planet ZDR. 

Dread received critical acclaim and became the fastest-selling Metroid game in Japan, the UK and the US. The game was nominated for Game of the Year and won the award for Best Action/Adventure Game at The Game Awards 2021.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Platform: PlayStation 5

The sixteenth installment in the Ratchet & Clank series doesn't veer too far off from the formula that Insomniac Games set for this series back in 2002. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart serves as a follow up to both 2013's Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus and 2016’s Ratchet & Clank remake. 

Officially released exclusively for the PlayStation 5 on June 11, 2021, Rift Apart has received generally favorable reviews, with particular praise given to its visuals, combat and technical advancements.

The third-person shooter platformer puts you in control of Ratchet, a feline humanoid mechanic Lombax, and Clank, a sentient defective robot saving alien worlds from bad guys in a colorful Star Wars style universe. 

Players get to wield a range of bizarre, cartoonish weapons ranging from your standard heat-seeking missiles to the Pixelizer, which blasts enemies into pixelized cubes. The heartfelt and family-friendly story adds series newcomer Rivet (voiced by Jennifer Hale), a female alternate dimension version of Ratchet.

Unfortunately, many Pinoy gamers who haven’t had a chance to get their hands on the next-gen console haven’t really gotten a chance to play this yet, along with other PS5 exclusive titles.

Deathloop

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5

Deathloop, a first-person shooter game developed by Arkane Studios was released on Sept. 14, 2021 for Microsfot Windows and as a timed console exclusive for the PlayStation 5.

The elegant and bloody game centers on Colt Vann, an assassin tasked with eliminating eight targets on an island trapped in a time loop. Every time Colt fails his mission, he’s sent back to the beginning of his day, much like Bill Murray’s classic movie Groundhog Day, but with more murder.

The player must use a combination of stealth, parkour, attack skills, guns, gadgets, and powers as in Arkane's previous Dishonored and Prey games to move about the game world. 

Deathloop received "generally favorable reviews" from critics, and was nominated for a number of game awards this year. It won Best Game Direction and Best Art Direction in The Game Awards 2021.

Genshin Impact

Platforms: Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, (with planned future release on Nintendo Switch)

While Genshin Impact was officially released in September 2020, it was this year that the game soared to the top spot of most talked about game in the Philippines.

According to Twitter: Philippines Year on Twitter 2021 stats, Genshin Impact was among the most tweeted about topics in the country this year.

The massively open world game features an anime style aesthetic and action-based system. The game is free-to-play across various platforms including mobile, PC and consoles, and is monetized through gacha game mechanics. The game continues to be updated regularly, giving players a reason to keep logging in to the land of Teyvat hungry for new adventures.

As of October 2021, Genshin Impact grossed $2 billion and made its mark as one of the highest grossing mobile games of all time. It was nominated for the Best Ongoing game and won the Best Mobile Game at The Game Awards 2021.

Axie Infinity

Platforms: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows

There's no doubt that play-to-earn gaming took the crypto world by storm this year. The unique gaming model geared towards adults, rewards players with cryptocurrency or NFTs just for playing games they would probably play for free. 

Axie Infinity, the NFT-based online video game, developed by Vietnamese studio Sky Mavis, was officially released in 2018, but suddenly surged in popularity in the Philippines during the pandemic era, with many Pinoys turning to the game as their main source of income in 2021.

The trading and battling game that allows players to collect, breed, raise, battle, and trade creatures known as "Axies" (characters based on axolotl), which are digitized as NFTs. The blockchain-based game inspired by Pokemon rewards players with currency via its in-game economy that can be exchanged for real money. Axie Infinity allows users to cash-out their tokens every fourteen days.

As of October 2021, Axie Infinity was reported to have 2 million daily active users, with majority of the players coming from the Philippines.

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang 

Platforms: Android, iOS

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, the mobile multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) developed and published by Moonton, has been around since 2016, and continues to be immensely popular in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, where official tournaments now regularly take place

The game designed for mobile phones features two opposing teams fighting to reach and destroy the enemy's base while defending their own base for control of a path, the three "lanes" known as "top", "middle", and "bottom", which connects the bases. Weaker computer-controlled characters, called "minions," spawn at team bases and follow the three lanes to the opposite team's base, fighting enemies and turrets.

The Philippines alone had 100 million registered users and 25 million monthly active users. MLBB is among the first game titles to be included as a medal event for esports at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

Just this December, Filipino team Blacklist International took home the crown in the Grand Finals defeating ONIC Philippines at the Mobile Legends M3 World Championships in Singapore, proving the mettle of Pinoy mobile gamers in international eSports events.